The media must serve as window to the world, not allowing that citizens of Macedonia remain enclosed within narrow petty interests, completely outside of the global development mainstream.
By: Prof. Mirjana Najchevska, PHD, human rights expert
A characteristic of the contemporary organization of society is interlinking between states, their mutual interdependence and, of course, common standards they attempt to develop within the framework of international structures.
The opportunity for each state to take part in the debates on these standards, to be part of the decision making and to invest in the common global future represents one of the highest achievements of the contemporary civilization.
Meetings of the highest international bodies (for example, the UN General Assembly, or the Human Rights Council) are the places where topics of common interest are addressed, where debates take place and where documents influencing large number of states/people are being adopted.
For instance, the agenda of the recent 68th Session of the UN General Assembly addressed: Promotion of sustainable economic growth and sustainable development in line with the relevant UN General Assembly resolutions, and the latest UN conferences (including fight against poverty, housing, agriculture and food safety, globalization and interdependence, social development, progress of women issues), maintaining international peace and security, promotion of human rights, promotion of justice and international law, disarmament, narcotics control, crime prevention…
Among other meetings at a highest level, (the first ever) UN High-level Meeting on Disability and Development took place on September 23, 2013 entitled “The way forward: a disability inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond” (on the realisation of the Millenium Development Goals and other international commitments on development goals affecting people with disability).
Within the framework of the same, 68th Session of the General Assembly, another meeting deemed historic took place on September 26, 2013, demanding that states renew their efforts to build a world free of nuclear weapons, or to “… to renew our commitment to a world free of fear.”
During the same period, the regular annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Council took place in Geneva. Macedonia expressed interest to participate within this body, shown by submitting candidacy for the period 2014-2016.
Receiving appropriate information from events of this kind is of exceptional importance for the citizens, who need to know about the topics on the agenda and the decisions made. In the hands of the citizens, this kind of information represent powerful tool for realizing their rights and freedoms at national level. Media represent the basic source for this type of information. They are the first analyst, they brief the citizens, select, and accentuate points.
How did the media in Republic of Macedonia report on these two exceptionally important international events?
- Not a single media published even an elementary information about the topics on the agenda of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York or the regular annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Media in Republic of Macedonia did not consider that it is important to provide Macedonian citizens with information about world events that send waves on the international scene, about basic concerns that go far beyond the borders of Macedonia, issues of healthy food, poverty, discrimination, nuclear weapons…
- Media published enormous number of articles, information, reportages and reports about the visit of the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the Minister of Foreign Affars Nikola Poposki to the U.S.A. in the period while the 68th Session of UN General Assembly took place.
What content could we find in the Macedonian media?
- Foremost – confusion whether the Prime Minister will attend the UN Assembly Session, or he is in an unrelated visit to the U.S.A.
Some media induced confusion starting with their titles (Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in a working visit to the United States of America, Gruevski with full agenda in the U.S.A., Gruevski goes to working visit to the United States of America, Gruevski with intensive political-economic agenda in the U.S.A.). Most of the other media mentioned the UN General Assembly in the title, but the whole, or most of the content referred to Gruevski’s visit to the U.S.A. (Macedonian delegation with numerous activities at the UN General Assembly, Gruevski and Poposki in New York, Gruevski and Poposki in New York, no details on the arranged meetings, Gruevski will speak at the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Gruevski will address the UN General Assembly on Friday).
A portion of the media used an interesting phrase “Within the framework of the working part of the visit to the U.S.A., …” which induces further confusion. Namely, again a visit to the U.S.A. is mentioned, which is proclaimed a working visit, most probably in comparison with the “nonworking part” associated with the UN General Assembly.
- Secondly – scarce transmission of the announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with simple listing of the anticipated activities by the Minister Nikola Poposki (Poposki at the general debate of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly).
- Thirdly – open disinformation, as the one perpetrated by Sitel TV under the title “Macedonia shall be a part of the UN debate,” which may create an impression that the Macedonia issue is put on the agenda of the UN General Assembly, and of course,
- Fourthly – the main news of the day: Gruevski dines with the U.S. President, which openly manipulates the citizens who get the impression that there was a bilateral meeting of the two presidents, instead of formal photo opportunity as part of the protocol for a dinner which the President of the U.S.A, Obama, organized for a wide set of state representatives gathered in New York for the UN General Assembly session.
The single attempt of analysis (even though again from the perspective of the formal position of Macedonia) was made by the newspaper Nova Makedonija, under the title “Small countries are on the agenda only if they are in trouble,” while minimal step out in relaying a smal part of the content related to the UN General Assembly Session is represented by the information entitled “Rohani calls on Israel to join Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
What media should have done:
- To provide appropriate information about the contents of the international events (from the aspect of global challenges and from the aspect of the topics of direct importance for Republic of Macedonia)
- To connect the subjects under discussion with current situations in Republic of Macedonia (to promote certain subjects, to expose controversies, to ask questions and expand the public knowledge)
- To inform the citizens on the resolutions and other documents that came out of the particular meetings (and which become possible foundations for further changes of standards at global and national level)
- To inform the citizens on the performances of the high functionaries of Republic of Macedonia at international fora and connect their positions regarding the same or similar topics publicized within the country
- To ask questions in cases of contradictions between what the high functionaries talk/do at the international fora and what they talk/do within the state.
Media must not allow the citizens of Macedonia to remain fenced within petty provincial interest and completely outside the global development mainstream. Only the citizens who have information about what goes on outside of the state’s borders, and in particular at the international scene, can make comparisons, build their expectations in relation to the government, can criticize and demand appropriate respect, promotion and protection of their basic rights and freedoms.
This analysis was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project – Media Fact-Checking Service Component, implemented by Metamorphosis. The analysis is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).